Jimmy Rollins’ biggest problem: walk no longer backs up the talk

Jimmy Rollins’ biggest problem: walk no longer backs up the talk

“We are the team to beat.” With those six simple words, Jimmy Rollins gave the Philadelphia Phillies the swagger to seize the NL East in 2007, the first in a run of five straight division titles that included a world championship in ‘08. J-Roll was an undisputed leader inside the clubhouse.

Of course, it helped that Rollins went out and had himself a literal MVP season on the diamond in ’07. Those words might fall a little flat in 2014 coming from a 35-year-old shortstop who just posted the least productive season of his Major League career since becoming an everyday player.

Then again, they might not if he was the type of player who did things “the right way.”

A veteran of 14 big-league seasons, Rollins’ experience alone could be a valuable asset to the Phillies, particularly the younger players (there’s one or two I think). As the longest tenured athlete in the city of Philadelphia, he’s been through it all, from collecting championships and accolades to enduring losing and controversies.

Rollins has a history though. The three-time All Star has been benched in the past for his perceived lack of effort and issues with punctuality. He’s not a lead-by-example guy like, say, Chase Utley, who by all accounts is constantly working out and watching film, always striving to maintain an edge.

That’s not Jimmy. It never was, yet he was perfectly capable of leading this team before. Now all of a sudden the Phillies want him to lead or leave, as Buster Olney writes for ESPN.com.

The question is when did he stop being a leader?

One answer would be the moment Ryne Sandberg took over as manager last August. The new skipper instantly employed a more disciplined approach than Charlie Manuel, who at times seemed to act as more of a grandfatherly figure than a boss.

It’s not hard to imagine how Sandberg’s demands would conflict with Rollins’ laid-back attitude. Sure enough, J-Roll already has been benched for three games this spring. Meanwhile, his manager is ranting and raving about backup Freddy Galvis’ “energy” and “positive influence.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt the Phillies have got roughly the same production from Galvis here in the early-goings. Rollins is 2-for-22 with five walks and a home run this spring. Galvis is 4-for-34 with three walks, a triple and a home run.

Would Sandberg have benched Rollins if he was producing at the plate? Possible, but perhaps unlikely.

The bottom line is Rollins stopped being a leader right around the time his offense fell off of a cliff. The truth is he could get away with marching to the beat of his own drum because he was getting the job done where and when it counted, on the field and in clutch situations.

Those days appear to be gone now though, so let’s call this drama what it is. The real issue here has little to do with Rollins’ leadership, work ethic or attitude. This is about Rollins being a shell of the player he once was.

The problem is the Phillies are stuck with No. 11 for the time being. The organization can talk trade all they want, but Rollins has the final say on such matters, and he doesn’t sound inclined to walk. I suppose Sandberg could make the situation so untenable for Jimmy that he gives up, but that doesn’t exactly send a great message, either.

The play here might be to patch things up with Rollins, who is largely guilty of signing the contract the Phillies gave him, and try to survive the season ahead. The idea that he needs to set an example in the clubhouse if he can’t set one in the batter’s box is not who Rollins is. Feuding over it is only a disservice to everybody.

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

After an 0-for-5 day at the plate, Odubel Herrera isn't heading to the bench a day later.

He's leading off. 

Pete Mackanin chose to move the slumping centerfielder atop the lineup card for Friday's series opener against the Reds despite Herrera's striking out in all five plate appearances Thursday.

"I think he's a .290-plus hitter as a leadoff man and I'm not going to sit him," Mackanin said pregame. "He needs to battle his way out. You figure you're the leadoff hitter once a game. After that, it's wide open."

While he hasn't batted leadoff this season, Herrera spent the majority of his time in that spot last season. In 76 games there, he batted .285 with a .359 OBP and .417 slugging percentage. 

The leadoff hitter this season has been Cesar Hernandez, who has a day off with a groin pull he's dealt with the last 10 days. Herrera primarily has been the No. 3 hitter this season and his average is down to .226 with 49 strikeouts to just 11 walks. 

Mackanin hopes the leadoff role can help change Herrera's approach at the plate.

"He was drawing a lot of walks at leadoff, so whether he has that mindset or not, I'm not sure," the manager said. "I just want to get him as many at-bats as possible. We need to get him going. We need him and [Maikel] Franco to get going."

May specifically has been tough on Herrera. He has four hits in his last 36 at-bats and has seven strikeouts in his last two games. He has just seven hits in 22 games this month. 

"I think he's at the point where he's grinding and sometimes when you grind, sometimes there's that feeling where you get lost," Mackanin said. "I've been in situations as a hitter where I've gone up to the plate saying, 'I don't care where it is. I'm going up there and just hacking.' Because you start thinking and that's not working.

"And you look for a pitch and then all of a sudden you say I'm going to take a pitch to get a look at and it's strike one. Then he throws you a nasty slider and that's strike two and your plan is out the window. So I've gone up to the plate myself saying, 'I'm just looking down the middle and swinging. I'm not thinking.'"

When asked, Mackanin said the team had not discussed demoting Herrera or Franco to the minors to take pressure off the duo.

While Herrera tries to hit his way back into a groove, Howie Kendrick is in the midst of working his way back to the majors. He was hit by pitch twice in a rehab appearance Thursday but is back in the lineup Friday in left field. 

Mackanin said Kendrick needed four days minimum in his rehab assignment and will therefore play Friday and Saturday before the team sees how he feels.

The manager also said the team would give more playing time to backup catcher Andrew Knapp. He started consecutive games for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"I'm going to try and see him as much as possible and keep him as sharp as possible instead of once a week," Mackanin said. "That's tough to hit, once a week. It's tough to hit twice a week if you don't hit back-to-back. There's no ulterior motive."

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

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Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in Australia this week, where he has accused longtime friend and former Australian men's national team assistant coach Shane Heal of defrauding him of $750,000, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Brown invested $250,000 into each of three companies for which Heal was the sole director. Brown wasn't given a legal title regarding the companies and didn't know the specifics of how the money would be used.

"I assumed that the money was going to be used for what Shane told me it was going to be used for," Brown said. "Because it was a friend that I had for 25 years."

Heal was charged last year by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission following an investigation relating to alleged misconduct in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to the AAP.

The sides return to court in Brisbane on July 20.

Heal played in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996-97 and was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.